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Menu Tricks From My 26th...

I'd say it's been quite the whirlwind two weeks, but really it's been quite the whirlwind month. Of the five weekends in September, I only spent one of them at home (remember that one where we painted the whole house???) September also included a six day trip to Maui, my Dad's retirement party and my brother's engagement party. I'm writing this post in San Diego, as we are here witnessing some of our closest friends get married tomorrow. On Sunday, Chase will fly out of San Diego and head back to work for a month. Whew.

In the midst of all this, on Tuesday I celebrated my 26th birthday. I kept going back and forth about what to do but Chase got me a food processor (YAY!) for my birthday so I really wanted to have a dinner party.

Birthday Menu

To start, Trisha's caramelized onion dip. Made with sour cream & cream cheese and served with your favorite chips, you can't go wrong with this starter. And onto the mains; the risotto was an easy decision. I love risotto, behind burgers it is my favorite comfort food. I figured I would also need some sort of protein. I checked the discount meat section (because I knew I'd be cooking the meat that night) and I ended up scoring 6 ribeye steaks for $3 each! Every good meal needs a simple salad and the strawberry & pecan spinach salad is a crowd-pleaser. And I don't have meals without condiments. Chase loves horseradish so HELLLLLLLLO creamy horseradish sauce. I'm a blue cheese gal so I whipped up a blue cheese compound butter to melt over my ribeye.

Finally, for my birthday cake, I made a Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake. It's a rich chocolate cake baked in a graham cracker crust, topped with a tangy fresh strawberry and vanilla bean ice cream and finished off with whipped cream. Yea, it was just as good as it sounds.

Here are ALL the recipes I made:

Spicy Balsamic Marinade

  • 1 cup olive oil

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 8 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon oregano

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 5 cloves garlic, halved

  • 1 whole lemon, sliced

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Marinate meat from 30 minutes-overnight in the refrigerator.

Compound Blue Cheese Butter

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place ingredients in a food processer and pulse to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 cup prepared horseradish

  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place whipping cream and pulse until thickened. Mix in sour cream, horseradish, chives, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Pulse until combined. Refrigerate for at least an hour prior to serving.

Strawberry, Pecan & Blue Cheese Spinach Salad

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped

  • 1 cup blue cheese

  • 1/4 cup sweet & spicy pecans, toasted

  • Spinach leaves

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/4 olive oil

  • Salt & pepper to taste

For sweet & spicy pecans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper over 2 cups of pecans. Roast for 10-12 minutes.

For dressing: Whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard, olive oil, salt & pepper until combined. Refrigerate until just before serving; shake well prior to serving.

Mushroom, Artichoke, and Sundried Tomato Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 shallots, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 6 cups chicken broth, warmed

  • 1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 pound sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 pound artichoke, thinly sliced

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  • Salt & pepper, to taste

  • Chopped chives, to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and stir in the shallots. Cook shallots and garlic for a minute. Add rice and cook until golden brown (just a few minutes!) Pour in wine and stir constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed. Repeat with 1/2 cup of broth until all of the liquid is absorbed (approximately 20 minutes!). Remove from heat and mix in butter and parmesan. Add in mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichokes and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 package graham crackers, crushed

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 4 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together graham crackers, butter and sugar. Press into bottom of a 8 inch springform pan and bake for 7 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place all dry ingredients in a sifter and set aside. Add egg, buttermilk, and vegetable oil into a large bowl and beat until smooth. Sift dry ingredients into egg mixture; beat until smooth. Add vanilla to the boiling water and then add to the batter; beat until smooth. Pour onto baked graham cracker crust and cook for 40-45 minutes.

Fresh Whipped Cream

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream

  • 8 tablespoons sugar

Whip cream and sugar until cream reaches stiff peaks. Store in freezer until ready to use. (You'll use some for the ice cream and the rest as the topping!)

Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/8 cup milk

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, finely chopped & drained

  • 1 cup fresh whipped cream

  • 20 drops red food color

Combine cream cheese and sugar into a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the milk, food coloring, and strawberries and pulse until smooth. Fold in whipped cream.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 8 ounces cream cheese. softened

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/8 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup fresh whipped cream

Combine cream cheese and sugar into a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the milk, vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Fold in whipped cream.

After the chocolate cake has cooled, spread strawberry ice cream on the chocolate cake. Carefully add vanilla ice cream and spread into an even layer. Finally, top with remaining whipped cream. Freeze ice cream cake for at least 6 hours.

Whew. There it is; a whirlwind menu to top off a whirlwind few weeks. I'll be recovering in my bed watching Riverdale (comments on this anyone???!) and eating the leftover ice cream cake ;).



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